Tsumago • Japan

Old post town, Tsumago,  in a historic preservation area with important traditional buildings.

There was the main road from Tokyo to Kyoto about three hundred years ago, its name Nakasendo can be translated to “road through the central mountains”.

At that time, Japan was ruled by the Shogunate. If you were there, you would see samurai bearing katana, townspeople wearing simple kimonos and peasants selling their farm products. Travellers coming on foot stayed in the town to rest their weary feet. This important bustling town was Tsumago. The town has survived the modern-day, inhabitants have saved its original atmosphere, Tsumago is traditional town that represents the heart of Japan.

Tsumago lies in the south of the thickly forested Kiso Valley, Nagano Prefecture. During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), it was one of the eleven post towns on the Nakesendo Highway; the important trade route connecting Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kyoto.

With the development of commercial centres to the other and the Chuo Rail Line in 1911, this once highly prosperous region fell into decline. Tsumago‘s very existence was threatened as inhabitants left and it became a deserted village.

In 1968, a century after the start of the Meiji Period, there was a move to preserve historical sites and structures. The following 3 years work was carried out to successfully restore twenty houses in Tsumago, and in 1971, a charter was agreed up which stared that no place in Tsumago should be ‘sold, hired out, or destroyed’.

In 1976, the town was designated by the government as a protected area for the preservation of traditional buildings. Today, no modern developments such as TV aerials, telephone poles or electricity cables mar/scare the scene.

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